Homegrown carmaker Tata Motors recently appointed Guenter Butschek as its Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director and it seems like the CEO has hit the ground running after taking charge on February 15, 2016.
Butschek’s induction was a whistle-stop tour of four plants and several dealers on the company’s private jet. There has been no settling in period for Butschek and informal accounts suggest the 55-year old MD & CEO seems to be a tough taskmaster and a workaholic who is not averse to calling late evening meetings beyond 8pm.
Butschek’s appointment finally fills the CEO’s position at Tata Motors, which has been vacant since the demise of Karl Slym in 2014. The straight shooting German is a hard core manufacturing expert with a strong focus on quality that’s been honed after nearly 25 years of working with Daimler AG in various positions.
For instance, during his stint as chief manufacturing executive at DaimlerChrysler South Africa, Butschek successfully persuaded his Japanese colleagues to import luxury cars assembled in South Africa. Japanese customers prefer cars made in Germany and didn’t like the idea of a Merc being assembled in South Africa which don’t carry the same perception of quality. It was a huge challenge for Butschek, who ensured that the cars from his plant were every bit as good as those made in Germany, by investing in worker training and improving the quality levels.
“He knows the business of making cars inside out and is the kind of person who will roll up his sleeves and get the job done himself.” said a Tata Motors source who expects Butschek’s arrival to shake things up within the company. “There is a lot that has to change in Tata Motors and my job is to make that change.” said Butschek, speaking to Autocar India on the sidelines of the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month.
Butschek’s emphasis on quality was made clear at the Geneva Motor Show, where he was seen huddled with Tata executives in a corner closely examining the cars on the Tata stand “He’s got microscopes in his eyes and can spots flaws which others may not notice” said a Tata source.
However, Butschek’s biggest challenge at Tata Motors will be changing the culture of the company, which is rooted in truck-making. The pace of product development
has been slow and quality though improved continues to a moving target. His immediate task at hand will be to quickly bring to market the spate of exciting new products Tata Motors unveiled at the Delhi Auto Expo. Cars like the Kite 5, Nexon and Hexa caught the fancy of show goers but enthusiasm could fizzle out if their market launch is delayed.
Butschek’s last assignment was at the Airbus group where he served as COO for around four years. So how does he plan to use his aviation industry experience? “I’ll use it to make Tata Motors fly!” he quips.